Persuading Parents to Accept Outside Care Can Be Tough

By Marsha Kay Seff

September 1, 2008 4 min read

My friend Mike recently e-mailed, asking for advice on dealing with his dad:

?My dad is now at a point where he really cannot take care of himself without a caregiver living in the home, and he refuses both to have someone move into the home or move to a nursing home. Any suggestions??

Obviously, Mike isn't the only one with this problem. Given the choice, most older folks would cling to their independence until the day they pass away quietly in their own beds. Most don't want a stranger in their home. Even fewer would elect to move to a retirement home.

But, sometimes, these choices are the only safe options.

It's tough telling our parents what to do. And legally, they don't even have to listen. Unless they're found incompetent by court of law — a step that's not only adversarial, but very expensive — you can't force them do anything.

But you do have their love for you on your side. So don't be afraid to use it.

I called Ann Sanderson of Southern Caregiver Resource Center in San Diego, and we came up with several suggestions for Mike and others:

Because your parents love you, use that relationship. They've always taken care of you, and helping you with this dilemma is just another thing they can do for you. ?Put it on your plate, not theirs,? Ann suggests.

Try starting the discussion with this: ?I love you very much, and I'm worried about your safety and well-being. I know it's very difficult to give up any of your independence, but it's time to make some changes.

?I'm not willing to sit by and watch you struggle and, perhaps, get hurt. I will not be accused of neglecting you.

?I'm not sleeping; I can't eat and can't think at work. Please do this for me; work with me to come up with a solution we both can live with.?

As I've written before, start with choices. ?We can hire a home-care company or move you to a facility or you could move to Ohio and live with my sister. Which choice do you prefer??

If your parents balk, point out that hiring a caregiver will allow them to remain home longer. Home-care companies are listed at Click on ?in home solutions,? then ?home care, non-medical.?

If both parents are at home, tell Dad that Mom needs more help. Then, tell Mom the same thing about Dad. That way, each might believe they're doing the best thing for the other. And they are.

Suggest hiring someone for a few hours a week to help with little errands. Ask your parents what they might like to do that isn't possible now. Visit a movie theater or friends, shop for groceries, go to the beach?

Though not all companies offer such limited hours, let them know the need will increase. Meanwhile, your parents will have time to get used to having someone in the house.

Include your parents in the hiring process if they're capable.

If they still aren't sold, show them a few retirement homes instead.

If your parents are adamant about not moving, give them a potential out: ?Let's try this for six months. If you still hate the place then, we can consider other options.?

Whatever you do, make sure your parents understand you're not abandoning them, that you'll visit often.

If you continue to hit the wall, get their doctor involved. Your parents might take the doctor's advice.

If one of your parents has dementia, all this talk probably won't help and it'll frustrate you. Instead, seek a geriatric assessment. Then, if your parent isn't fit to return home, you can send him or her directly to a suitable dementia facility.

Good luck. I know how difficult this is. I've been there.

Marsha Kay Seff writes about aging issues for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Contact her at [email protected]


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